Mindfulness in business is popular right now. In fact, as the Economist puts it “selling mindfulness has become a business in its own right”. If that sounds like business co-opting another Eastern philosophy (anyone remember Sun Tzu’s The Art of War?) you might want to wait a second before you dismiss it. But let’s start at the beginning.
What is Mindfulness Anyway?
Put simply mindfulness is just what it says on the can: being consciously aware of what we’re doing as we’re doing it. That means no thoughts about what you did last night or will do next week or even what you’ll do an hour from now. It means being fully present with no judgements about what’s right or wrong or who did what to whom.
If that sounds easy, put your device down for one minute and try it. Back? And it’s about that easy for us all.
What’s It Got To Do With Business?
Perhaps now more than ever our professional world is fast paced. Surprising as it may be the increased paced along with more emails, more meetings and more decisions to make doesn’t always make for better. In fact the more we do sometimes means the less effective we are. And I don’t just mean doing things less effectively, but also interacting with people less effectively. Like not giving someone our full attention because we’re thinking about the next thing to do. Or not giving a decision our full attention because we’re thinking of the next decision.
You get my point: the ramifications for our professional lives can be stark.
But what if that kind of pace doesn’t cause stress or missed opportunities. Imagine feeling calm and focused in the middle of it all. Imagine hearing everything that needs to be heard, taking time to digest it, and making decisions in a space free of pressure and necessity.
What would that do for your performance? For the way you interact with others? And, because they follow your lead, the way your staff interact with each other?
Mindfulness: A Shared Tradition
When I used to practice Aikidō it wouldn’t be uncommon for a newbie to show up thinking they were going to become a badass martial arts expert.
Some held onto that idea for months, others for years. But eventually, they’d get the point: really following the path of Aikidō means never having to use Aikidō.
My point is it doesn’t matter what our motivation for starting Aikidō is. Eventually we’ll find out what it means.
The same is true for mindfulness. If we think it gives us a competitive edge, makes us calmer or make better decisions. Fine. If we think it helps us respond better to others or cut through the noise. That’s great.
Because what mindfulness can do, if practised long enough, is help us become more us. It helps us be more honest, more courageous and more resilient. And that makes us an effective leader.
The ability to be fully present is innate in each of us. It just takes practice. That’s why any attempt to deepen and sharpen our innate skills is never co-opting another culture. It’s tapping into the human culture we’re all part of.